Feeling overwhelmed is something that we all experience in our lives. Whenever our mind feels cluttered and there are too many things demanding our attention and energy, it can feel challenging and frustrating when you don’t know what to tackle first. So, how do you deal with overwhelm and reclaim your focus? Read on to find out more.
What does it mean to be overwhelmed?
Feeling overwhelmed is a little more than feeling stressed. When a person feels emotionally overwhelmed, they often describe feeling paralyzed by their thoughts, unable to move past the multitude of feelings and emotions they are experiencing. It can be scary, especially for those who don’t know how to react or respond.
Why do we get overwhelmed?
There are many causes to overwhelm. It can be due to physical or mental illness, significant life changes, a demanding job, relationship issues or personal trauma, or a myriad of these. Sometimes, several challenges can appear in a person’s life at once and this can trigger intense feelings of despair, anxiety, worry, and distress. Physically, overwhelm can manifest in multiple ways including a quickened heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, headaches, and more. It’s also quite common for someone to be tearful, agitated, and angry when they feel overwhelmed.
How to deal with feeling overwhelmed?
No matter what the cause of your overwhelm is, there are a few strategies and ways you can overcome it and find your calm again. First of all, you should accept your feelings and be kind to yourself. It's okay to have a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad month. Being accepting of your feelings and the knowledge that you are feeling overwhelmed is important to do before you can move forward to resolve it.
Secondly, take some deep breaths. People often underestimate how much breathing exercises can help in these situations. Did you know that just a few deep breaths can activate the parasympathetic nervous system? This is the nervous system that is responsible for actions that occur in our bodies when we rest. It functions in a different way to the sympathetic nervous system which triggers our fight or flight response. Parasympathetic breathing is not as complicated as it sounds. It’s conscious and controlled breathing that slows down the heart rate and fills your lungs with more oxygen.
Thirdly, write it out. Even if you are not a writer, simply getting all of your thoughts out on paper or typing it out in your notes app can help tremendously. When we keep our feelings suppressed, we are more likely to remain frustrated, agitated, and angry as a result. To alleviate your feelings, writing them out in an unstructured and non-judgemental way can give you some relief. Nobody else has to read it, you can throw it away after you’ve written it down.
Next, give yourself some time and space just for yourself. Anything that is triggering or overwhelming can wait. Take some time to be by yourself and do something that you enjoy, it could be reading a book, taking a long bath, or going for a nature walk. Try to choose something that doesn’t involve a screen and do it for as long as you need to. Having a small break can help you feel refreshed and ready to tackle the things that are bothering you again. Remember, creating healthy boundaries for yourself is crucial for your wellbeing!
Finally, ask for help if you need it. If you are still feeling overwhelmed and no amount of deep breathing, self-care, or writing it out is working, it might be time to talk it over with a friend, family member, or mental health professional. There are of course many other coping mechanisms for dealing with overwhelm such as practicing mindfulness, having a gym session, a cuddle with a loved one, or watching a funny video. Find what works for you and know that you are not alone. Life is tough sometimes and we have all experienced overwhelm, just take a deep breath and know that you won’t feel like this forever and things will be okay.